How to tell if you’re “mom enough”

So, TIME Magazine decided to kick over a tracker jacker-level nest this week by putting an extended breastfeeding (EBF) mom and her 3 year old ds on the cover. With him breastfeeding. While standing on a toddler chair. [The article can be read in print or, if you can unlock, you can read it on their web site. More links – unlocked – here and here.] The basic premise is that it’s fun to star a holy war amongst moms during a year when we’re already talking about a “War on Women”.

Oh TIME, you are so awful sometimes.

My first reaction to seeing a mom EBF her 3yo was shock. It wasn’t that I was repulsed by the idea of a woman bf’ing her son; far from it, I think that’s fantastic. That she’s also incredibly beautiful and has a slammin’ body only made it seem crueller. She’s pretty, she’s got a great bod, and she makes bf’ing look like it’s so fricking easy (when I know for a fact that this is NOT the case for everybody). Ultimately, what bothered me about it is that her child shouldn’t need breastmilk at this stage of his development.

Over the course of a breastfeeding cycle, from when your colostrum first starts to come in all the way through weaning, your milk is constantly changing its composition to meet the nutritional needs of your child. By the time your child is starting to get onto solid foods, your milk is nowhere near as thick or heavy in nutrients because your body just knows that other stuff is going into their system to handle that. So it seems rather odd that anyone would *need* to breastfeed that long…the milk can’t possibly be any better, nutritionally, than what they’d get from a dairy or grocery store. If anything, it may not be as good for you, since it will have less vitamin D and calcium – requiring the child to need to lean more heavily on vitamins or foods rich in the appropriate, otherwise lacking, nutrients.

So, it is mostly me shaking my head say, “This makes no sense.”

I also have a co-worker whose sister just gave birth to an overdue child who has lost a little too much weight since birth. The rule of thumb is that if a child loses more than 10% of their birth weight, they need to be fed more frequently, potentially be supplemented with formula, etc. while the pediatrician monitors more closely. We went through this with dd when my milk didn’t come in well, so hearing that my co-worker’s sister was going through this, too, was giving me flashbacks to my crying fits in the hospital when the milk just wasn’t there and dd was screaming out in hunger until I finally relented and let formula take the place of what I thought only I should provide. Apparently, my co-worker’s sister is taking this in better stride than I did with dd, so good for her. She’s also using a syringe (for those not in the know, this involves a very thin tube that you can strap to your breast so the child is mimicking the comfort of being held close without potentially getting nipple confusion from a bottle). So, she’s better positioning herself for being able to continue bf’ing once she’s gotten the weight issues under control.

As you fast-forward in life, there seem to be no end of times when you compare yourself to other moms. I look around and see moms who appear to be more capable, more patient, better financed, fitter, happier…just generally BETTER. And then I think about my own mom, who’s a superhero to me even more every day as I learn about what it takes to be what I consider a “good mom”. She was epic during my childhood – working full-time, often in managerial roles, being a full-time mom and primary caregiver, cooking dinner every night, keeping the house together and clean…she never seemed to lose it.

And thus I come back to how I feel about my momming. I was “single-momming it” this week, as dh spent the majority of the week out of town for a work trip. Each night, I was on the hook to get the kids from daycare on time, get them home safely and make dinner. I was the only one to put them both to bed, and I was the only one to clean up. On the night when one of them couldn’t sleep well without a parent, I was the only parent who could be woken, and I still had to get up on time the next morning and find a way to shower so that I wouldn’t go into work anything less than clean. I managed. Actually, I did a bit better than managing – I somehow convinced the kids after that first awful night that they should stay in bed all night, and both of them did. Evenings were well-coordinated and everyone played their part, and they ate and slept well for me. I got hot showers 4 out of 4 days that I was on my own. And each day, the kids were happy, got play time, got relaxing time, ate square meals, slept for the required amount of hours, and went to school looking as though we were still a two-parent household all week. Oh, and I managed to get all of my work done at work and then some.

So, then we circle back around to this notion of being “enough” of a mom. In my mind, if you’re trying to do as much as possible within your power (and within the limits of reason) to make/keep your children happy and healthy, then the answer is yes. There’s a lot of stuff that we can’t control, but there is a good bit that we can control, too. Parenting is all about jumping off a cliff not knowing whether the bungee, parachute or other flotation devices are going to work. And, on your way down (or up), you keep experimenting because what worked 5 minutes ago no longer flies, so to speak. You don’t need to EBF to be a good mom. You don’t need to buy the most expensive clothes or toys for your kids to be a good mom. You don’t need to be model-pretty and model-slender to be a good mom.

There’s a big difference between being able to have a child and being a parent. When you decide to BE a mom and devote time and effort to that, then you’re mom enough. Setting up unnecessary fights and agitating an already on-edge population just seems mean-spirited. Shame on TIME for fueling a fire that just needs to burn out, already. I don’t need a magazine to tell me whether I’m “mom enough”. I can figure that out on my own.

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